I read an article recently about hopped sparkling water that caught my attention. I will often enjoy plain or flavored sparkling water, so the idea of a hopped sparkling water was intriguing. A quick search for “hop water” revealed that several breweries (like Lagunitas) make and even bottle it. There is also a company exclusively making a lightly sweetened hopped soda.
It seemed like this should be a pretty easy thing to make myself.
I went on a hunt to find a recipe and came up empty. I did find some vague references to how one might go about doing it, but no specifics for a recipe. There didn’t seem to be anything anywhere that would tell me exactly how much hops, and in what specific way to infuse them into the water.
What I did find was the possibility of doing a low temperature infusion along with a dry hop as a possible good method. (someone is going to send me a link to a recipe now) This seemed logical to me, boiling hops in a low gravity beer makes for more bitterness. Boiling hops in plain old water might make for some kind of crazy bitter.
Of course one would want to use an fruity aromatic hop for this… I chose Azacca hops to start.
I didn’t want to make a whole keg of this stuff in case, well you know, it turns out terrible. I decided to make a 2-liter bottle with my CO2 bottle cap. As for the amount of hops I decided to go conservatively based upon a five gallon recipe and convert to the two-liter batch size. Since we are already working in metric: 5 gallons is about 19 liters, and 1 ounce is about 28 grams. 29 / 19 = ~1.5 grams. For 2 liters, 3 grams total.
Because the bitterness conversion is going to be off the charts in plain old water, I decided to do one gram in a 160 F (71 C) “hop stand” for 20 minutes to make a tea, and then do an overnight dry hop with the last two grams. I brought reverse osmosis water up to 160 F (71 C) in the electric tea kettle and poured the water into a quart mason jar to fill it halfway. I added one gram of hops and set a timer for 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes I added ice to fill along with the 2 gram hop addition. I capped the jar and put it in the fridge for 24 hours.
The next day I filtered the hop tea through a coffee filter and funnel directly into the 2-liter bottle. I topped the bottle off with RO water and refrigerated to cool it down before force carbonating. Once cool, I put on the CO2 cap, turned the pressure up to 30 PSI, attached the CO2 line and shook it until the bubbling slowed. Pictured is the result; very slightly green and cloudy. The Azacca hops is slightly citrus with a hint of berries and melon for the aroma in this format. I find the flavor very pleasant. There was a slight bitterness in the first couple of days which was okay, after the bitterness subsided it almost tastes like a fruit flavored water that slowly changes into a bitter bite at the end. The cloudy and bitter nature of the beverage quickly faded away over a couple of days.
Overall: I like it. It’s cheap and easy to make. I’m making more…
The ultimate question for me now is, how can I make it better? It would be nice if the bitterness stayed around longer. The loss of bitterness is attributable to oxidation in the 2-liter bottle; uncapping the bottle and pouring it out introduces oxygen; the killer of many NEIPA. I will need to use low oxygen protocols and keg it, no problem. I also think the flavor and aroma could be stronger, and it might do well to be offset by some notes to make a person know that they are definitely drinking a hopped beverage all while not knocking anyone’s taste buds into orbit.
Over the next weeks I tried many combinations of hops and found any hops having a hint of “dankness” to be disagreeable. It’s not that dank hops were bad, just not what I’m going for in this. I’m tending to lean exclusively on the fruity hops. Azacca, Mosaic, Citra, Centennial, and Cascade all do well for the purpose of making hopped water.
I am currently carbonating a 5-gallon batch with Azacca and I employed a 64oz vacuum insulated growler for the 160F stand for the tea, and used the low oxygen dry hopping technique to free float the hops. The hop schedule was 0.35 ounce at 160F for 20 minutes and then 1 ounce dry hop. This amounts to 0.5 grams and 1.5 grams per liter if you want to play around with smaller amounts.
I wouldn’t call this project “done” at this point. I would like to play around with adding other flavors to the mix and see what I can come up with. We’ll save that for another article.